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  1. Default Milwaukee to Grand Canyon on a budget - 1st time road trip planner

    Hi all!

    I'm new to road trip planning as well as roadtripamerica, so I'm looking for any advice I can get! =)

    My boyfriend and I are planning a road trip from the Milwaukee area to the Grand Canyon. The trip is meant as a vacation as well as a college graduation gift to ourselves (so it will be happening at the end of May/beginning of June). We are outdoorsy-type people who have explored lots of the natural beauty in Wisconsin but are looking to explore the natural beauty of the West.

    We are relatively poor college students, so any tips on traveling cheaply would be useful. We intend to camp a lot of the way and maybe stay at a few motels (however, I'm still trying to figure out looking for cheap/free campgrounds). Also, do we have to be worried about campgrounds filling up if we don't make reservations ahead of time?

    I'm also seeking advice for attractions on the way. Basically, all we for sure want to see is the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. I personally love Colorado, but just driving through the Rockies and staying at a national or state park or two there is all I need. We are contemplating taking a more northern route on the way back, to possibly see the Badlands and such in South Dakota. We're not sure if we should save this for a separate trip though. ALSO, we were contemplating extending our trip all the way to the coast and making a stop somewhere in California (I've never seen the Pacific Ocean!) Do you think either of these is doable?

    We're expecting to take only about a week or a week and a half for this trip. Do you think that's enough time?

    So if anyone has suggestions for attractions on the way from WI to AZ (through Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah) that would be much appreciated! We love natural wonders, maybe quirky museums or other stops, or anything else - we're just looking for a fun and relaxing trip! (We just don't want to drive straight there and miss out on making lots of cool stops!)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Time issues.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    I'm afraid the Pacific is out of the question with your time frame. It's going to take you 6 days to drive to the GC and back, so with 10 days you haven't a lot of spare time, with a week you have a day at the canyon and where you decide to stop for the night. As you head into Utah you could visit Arches NP and drive down through Monument valley and if you had at least 10 days you could possibly go home via Badlands, but I really think you are underestimating the distances and the time it will take to cover the ground.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Grand Canyon is forever.

    With at the most a week and a half, and considering the places you wish to visit and the attractions you seek, my advice would be to do your research and find all those places on the map. Then set out, and enjoy all the sights you have chosen, until half the time is up. At which point you turn around and head homewards via a different route.

    Having to get to a distant destination, which is going to mean most of your time in the car and by-passing all the other attractions along the way, does not make for an enjoyable trip, much less a relaxing holiday.

    Should this mean you won't get to the Grand Canyon, then so be it. It will still be there when you have a chance to take a much longer holiday, and really enjoy that trip.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I have to agree that with a week to 10 days, you've only got time to explore the Canyon and surrounding areas - especially if you don't want to just drive straight there and back. I'd save South Dakota for another trip.

    There's so much to do around there anyway, I'd take advantage anyway. I mean, you've got Zion and Bryce Canyon, along with places like Arches, Canyonlands, and Monument Valley that Dave already mentioned. Going home, you could take a different route, following the path of old route 66 via I-40, I-44, I-55 to change it up and still have a lot of things to see.

    Free and Cheap camping isn't nearly as widespread as you might think. There are some options for free - some BLM and National Forest lands do allowed dispersed camping, but that is pack-in/pack-out, with no water, toilets, or anything else. Typically you have to hike a significant distance off the road to find a legal spot. Otherwise, most public campgrounds are going to run about $15-25 a night. Reservations will typically be needed if you want to stay at a campground inside a national park during peak season, but you can usually get buy without them if you are staying at other locations.

  5. Default

    Thanks for your help everyone! I guess I needed that reality check - but that's why I posted! So I will definitely try to get us at least 2 weeks for this trip, hopefully that will solve some of these issues!

  6. Default

    My friend and I did a similiar trip two years ago, first I would suggest you extend the trip longer and try and get out to California to see the Pacific Ocean. We did it after finishing up college as well and it has been one of the best experiences...and we did it really cheap. We left from St. Cloud MN, headed west through South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Yosemite, San Francisco and down the Pacific Coast Highway before ending up in San Diego, then ventured east to Vegas, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Arches and Colorado.

    We stayed in a few motels along the way, really cheap too, either through the use of websites like priceline, or just showing up late to the motels and talking to the owners (usually the small motels). We shared a campsite at Yosemite, and slept in the car from San Diego back to St. Cloud. I wouldn't suggest sleeping in the car, unless you have done it before--we had.

    We packed out lunches, stopped a lot. Like I said before, I doubt years from now you will regret having decided to extend your trip.

  7. Default So... how long?

    Mattfromflorida: Your trip does sound a lot like mine! Thanks for your advice. =) Could you tell me, about how long did your trip take you?

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